Friday, April 01, 2005

R.L. Stine: He Still Gives Us Goosebumps!

("I loved the Twilight Zone. Rod Serling is a real hero of mine. I never missed that show. I think it was a big influence on me")

It came from Ohio! At least that's how horror fiction author R.L. Stine describes his origins in his autobiography of the same name. Robert Lawrence Stine was born on October 8, 1943 in the relatively tame city of Columbus, Ohio. Raised in the tranquil setting of suburban Bexley, Ohio, Stine attended Cassingham Elementary School, and graduated from Bexley High School in 1961. His earliest writing efforts consisted of adventurous stories he would create for his own amusement, many of which were confiscated by disgruntled teachers.

After graduating from the University of Ohio, where he had been editor of the school's humor magazine, The Sundial, Stine moved to New York City, writing under various pen names such as Eric Affabee, Zachary Blue, Jovial Bob, and composed works like 101 Silly Monster Jokes and Bozos on Patrol, as well as becoming editor of Bananas Magazine. Stine's first solo publication was the decidedly non-creepy How To Be Funny, An Extremely Silly Guide, in 1978.

During the 1980s, Stine ventured into the field of horror fiction with the publication of Blind Date, a terror tale for teens. In 1986, Stine created a teenage horror fiction paperback series, FEAR STREET, published by Parachute Press. The success of FEAR STREET spawned three spin-off series. Then the literal hand of fate grabbed Stine's prolific pen in 1992 when he devised GOOSEBUMPS, a spooky line of paperbacks for ages 8–11. Originally intended to be a six-volume venture, beginning with the short paperback novel Welcome to Dead House, the series, totalling 62 volumes and the sequel series Goosebumps 2000, has sold over 250 million copies. The success of the books has propelled Stine to much-envied status as the world's best-selling author (ahead of fellow horror-meister Stephen King).

Due to the monstrous popularity of Stine's books, a Goosebumps television series, filmed in Canada, began a successful four-year, 52-episode run on October 27, 1995 (just before Halloween). A 1995 epidsode of the Goosebumps television program, adapted from Stine's Cuckoo Clock Of Doom, won the Writer's Guild of America Kid's Choice TV Award for screenwriters Dan Angel and Billy Brown. With a production tally of eighteen top-notch children's television features, executive producer Deborah Forte, brought a professionalism and polish which dignified the on-screen adaptation of the Stine books.


SEASON 1 (1995-1996; 19 Episodes In Season 1)

The Haunted Mask, Part 1 (Originally Aired 10/27/1995)
The Haunted Mask, Part 2 (Originally Aired 10/27/1995)
The Cuckoo Clock Of Doom (Originally Aired 11/3/1995)
The Girl Who Cried Monster (Originally Aired 11/10/1995)
Welcome To Camp Nightmare, Part 1 (Originally Aired 11/17/1995)
Welcome To Camp Nightmare, Part 2 (Originally Aired 11/24/1995)
Phantom Of the Auditorium (Originally Aired 12/1/1995)
Piano Lessons Can Be Murder (Originally Aired 12/8/1995)
Return Of The Mummy (Originally Aired 12/22/1995)
Night Of The Living Dummy II (Originally Aired 1/12/1996)
My Hairiest Adventure (Originally Aired 1/19/1996)
Stay Out Of The Basement, Part 1 (Originally Aired 1/27/1996)
Stay Out Of The Basement, Part 2 (Originally Aired 1/27/1996)
It Came From Beneath The Sink! (Originally Aired 2/2/1996)
Say Cheese And Die! (Originally Aired 2/9/1996)
A Night In Terror Tower, Part 1 (Originally Aired 2/25/1996)
A Night In Terror Tower, Part 2 (Originally Aired 2/25/1996)
The Werewolf Of Fever Swamp, Part 1 (Originally Aired 5/17/1996)
The Werewolf Of Fever Swamp, Part 2 (Originally Aired 5/17/1996)

SEASON 2 (1996-1997; 25 Episodes In Season 2):

Be Careful What You Wish For (Originally Aired 8/10/1996)
Attack Of the Mutant, Part 1 (Originally Aired 9/7/1996)
Attack Of the Mutant, Part 2 (Originally Aired 9/7/1996)
Bad Hare Day (Originally Aired 9/14/1996)
The Headless Ghost (Originally Aired 9/21/1996)
Go Eat Worms (Originally Aired 9/28/1996)
You Can't Scare Me! (Originally Aired 10/5/1996)
Revenge Of The Lawn Gnomes (Originally Aired 10/12/1996)
Ghost Beach (Originally Aired 10/19/1996)
Attack Of The Jack-O-Lanterns (Originally Aired 10/26/1996)
Haunted Mask II, Part 1 (Originally Aired 10/29/1996)
Haunted Mask II, Part 2 (Originally Aired 10/29/1996)
Let's Get Invisible (Originally Aired 11/2/1996)
The Scarecrow Walks At Midnight (Originally Aired 11/9/1996)
Monster Blood (Originally Aired 11/16/1996)
More Monster Blood (Originally Aired 11/16/1996)
Vampire Breath (Originally Aired 11/23/1996)
How To Kill A Monster (Originally Aired 2/1/1997)
Calling All Creeps (Originally Aired 2/15/1997)
Welcome To Dead House, Part 1 (Originally Aired 6/29/1997)
Welcome To Dead House, Part 2 (Originally Aired 6/29/1997)
Don't Wake Mummy (Originally Aired 7/12/1997)
The Blob That Ate Everyone (Originally Aired 7/19/1997)
Night Of The Living Dummy III, Part 1 (Originally Aired 7/20/1997)
Night Of The Living Dummy III, Part 2 (Originally Aired 7/20/1997)

SEASON 3 (Ultimate Goosebumps; 1997-1998; 22 Episodes In Season 3):

A Shocker On Shock Street (Originally Aired 9/6/1997)
My Best Friend Is Invisible (Originally Aired 9/8/1997)
The House Of No Return (Originally Aired 9/13/1997)
Don't Go To Sleep (Originally Aired 9/20/1997)
Click (Originally Aired 9/27/1997)
An Old Story (Originally Aired 10/4/1997)
The Barking Ghost (Originally Aired 10/11/1997)
One Day At Horrorland, Part 1 (Originally Aired 10/25/1997)
One Day At Horrorland, Part 2 (Originally Aired 11/1/1997)
Werewolf Skin, Part 1 (Originally Aired 11/22/1997)
Werewolf Skin, Part 2 (Originally Aired 11/22/1997)
The Haunted House Game (Originally Aired 12/6/1997)
Awesome Ants (Originally Aired 2/7/1998)
Bride Of The Living Dummy (Originally Aired 2/14/1998)
Strained Peas (Originally Aired 2/21/1998)
Say Cheese And Die - Again! (Originally Aired 2/28/1998)
Perfect School, Part 1 (Originally Aired 4/11/1998)
Perfect School, Part 2 (Originally Aired 4/11/1998)
Chillogy, Part 1: Squeal Of Fortune (Originally Aired 4/25/1998)
Chillogy, Part 2: Strike 3 ... You're Doomed (Originally Aired 5/2/1998)
Chillogy, Part 3: Escape From Karlsville (Originally Aired 5/9/1998)
Teacher's Pet (Originally Aired 5/16/1998)

SEASON 4 (1998-1999; 8 Episodes In Season 4)

How I Got My Shrunken Head, Part 1 (Originally Aired 9/14/1998)
How I Got My Shrunken Head, Part 2 (Originally Aired 9/14/1998)
The Ghost Next Door, Part 1 (Originally Aired 9/28/1998)
The Ghost Next Door, Part 2 (Originally Aired 9/28/1998)
Cry Of The Cat, Part 1 (Originally Aired 10/31/1998)
Cry Of The Cat, Part 2 (Originally Aired 10/31/1998)
Deep Trouble, Part 1 (Originally Aired 11/16/1998)
Deep Trouble, Part 2 (Originally Aired 11/16/1998)

A droll yet quiet man, Stine remains humble regarding his success, preferring to focus on writing. None of his teachers were space aliens, and to quote Stine himself (from the website): "“I’ve never turned into a bee – I've never been chased by a mummy or met a ghost. But many of the ideas in my books are suggested by real life. When I write, I try to think back to what I was afraid of or what was scary to me, and try to put those feelings into books. For example, one Halloween my son, Matt, put a mask on and then had trouble pulling it off. That gave me the idea for The Haunted Mask.”

One of the most thrilling tributes Stine has received occurred in October, 1997 when GOOSEBUMPS HORROR LAND at Walt Disney World MGM Studios opened. "What a thrill! I went down to Florida for the grand opening. We had 1800 people there. From now on, a live GOOSEBUMPS show will be performed 5 times a day and there is a GOOSEBUMPS fun house with a scary hall of mirrors and a place to have your photo taken on a GOOSEBUMPS cover. What a thrill to have GOOSEBUMPS in the same place as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and the Muppets," Stine said in a 1997 Scholastic Magazine interview.

It has been an ominous 13 lucky years since the Goosebumps books crawled from the crypt and R.L. Stine is busier than ever with Nightmare Room, and Mostly Ghostly, his newest youth-oriented fright series featuring titles such as Let's Get This Party Haunted, Ghouls Gone Wild, and Little Camp Of Horros, as well as single-volume titles like The Haunting Hour: Chills in the Dead of Night. And despite being born in October, the month of Halloween, Stine does not cite the pagan holiday as a major source of inspiration. "Halloween was a painful time for me when I was a kid. I wanted to be something scary, but my parents bought me the duck costume. I was so embarrassed! We were very poor and I couldn't buy a new costume every year. So I had to be a duck for years."

It may be a paradox to use the word "safe" in this context, but unless he is eaten by a blob, attacked by a feverish werewolf, or becomes one of his own mutant creations, readers can expect a dizzying and dastardly plethora of perversion from R.L. Stine for many full moons to come.

To contact R.L. Stine you may write to him at: Scholastic, Inc., 555 Broadway, New York, NY 10012.